Rollout LandPKS for Sustainable Land Use and Management in Ethiopia

The LandPKS (Land Potential Knowledge System) project is recently launched in Ethiopia to complement ongoing efforts in land administration and sustainable land management. Currently in Ethiopia an emphasis is given on issuing land certificates to secure land tenure rights of rural communities. Although, securing land rights encourages farmers to invest conservation-wise on their land, land demarcation and certification merely based on plot sizes alone could not be sufficient to achieve sustainable land management. Cognizant of this fact, the Ethiopian government is yet to enforce land use policy. The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Rural Land Administration and Land Use Proclamation No, 456/2005, states:

“A guiding land use Masterplan, which takes into account Soil type, Landform,weather condition, plant cover and socio economic conditions and which is based on a water shed approach, shall be developed…………”

“WHEREAS, it has become necessary to establish an information database. that enables to identify the size, direction and use rights of the different types of landholdings in the country……”

Accordingly, land use policy needs to be backed up with scientific knowledge about the potential of a land. The lack of knowledge about land’s potential is one of the reasons for the underutilisation or overexploitation of lands under occupancy. Thus, making the relevant knowledge readily available is half the solution of the prevailing land misuse problem. Not only that, knowledge of the land’s potential should also be the preceding and the core step while setting up land use policies. LandPKS serves this purpose by availing analysed information about the potential of land following a worldwide accepted standard land evaluation procedures, based on a data gathered by users and retrieved from the cloud by the LandPKS mobile app. The LandPKS app replaces the exhausting, paper based, a qualified expert demanding conventional land evaluation process. The detailed biophysical information about the land supplied by LandPKS will complement the preliminary textual and imagery data which are displayed on the land tenure certificates already being issued to rural land holders in Ethiopia.

A village in Gurage Zone with different existing land uses – Orthophoto taken in October 2018.

Moreover, the Ethiopian government is keen on establishing land information system database, which potentially fosters information accessibility to users. Likewise, maintaining transparency is one of the core working principles in Ethiopian offices, where land administration is no exception. Nevertheless, the paper-based land data archiving is a bottleneck to transparency where the end users require the goodwill of authorities or experts to get data access. This in turn could be pinpointed as one of the factors for land related corruptions widespread in Ethiopia. Maintaining data transparency requires use of the right tools and methodologies to collect and store data. In this aspect, the LandPKS app is an ideal tool as it will make data openly accessible to all registered users through its data portal.

The issue of sustainable land management has been a priority agenda in Ethiopia. This boils down to the fact that soil erosion is identified as the main environmental degradation causing further socioeconomical instabilities in the country. Soil erosion is aggravated by the recurring drought, over-cultivation, deforestation and overgrazing practices in Ethiopia. To figure out the erodibility risk of a specific area it will be mandatory to: monitor the land cover, understand the soil inherent characteristics, topography and the climate condition. The LandPKS mobile application is developed with a functionality to analyze and correlate the above-mentioned parameters upon which feasible soil conservation decisions could be made. Moreover, from the biophysical soil LandPKS outputs, fertility related variables could be extrapolated which also contributes to the land management decisions.

The LandPKS project is engaged in disseminating the LandPKS mobile app through capacity building training for all kinds of interested stakeholders including government officers, farmers, extension workers, researchers, and students. Often shortage of office computers in Ethiopia is the hurdle in the compilation and analysis of data collected from the field. The LandPKS app will address this issue, as it will enable officers to collect, store, analyse and interpret data all at once using affordable mobile smart phones. This could also assist their daily task of preparing field reports, as LandPKS app gives the option to generate PDF reports, and leaves them with less excuse of not having computers. On top of that, unlike computers requiring broadband or WiFi internet connection to upload data, which currently is a luxury to have in Ethiopian offices, LandPKS data could be uploaded using regular phone internet connection. Not only that, in remote rural Ethiopian villages where there is limited phone signal, LandPKS app users could temporarily save collected data on their portable mobile phone and they should do synchronization to upload data on the web portal whenever and wherever they get internet connection.

Finally, taking into account the indispensable role LandPKS app could play in the land use planning and sustainable land management, LandPKS Ethiopia project pursue opportunities to work in partnership with various implementing stakeholders and mainstream use of LandPKS app into ongoing land management practices. Any organization interested in collaborating with the LandPKS project, and/or receiving a training on the use of the LandPKS app should contact the Ethiopian Country Coordination Officer, Mr. Adane Buni, at

Introducing Adane Buni: LandPKS Country Coordination Officer for Ethiopia

Adane Buni is the LandPKS Country Coordination Officer for Ethiopia. Adane has graduated in Water Security and International Development at a Master’s of Science Degree level from University of East Anglia, United Kingdom. Previously he has studied Soil Science(MSc) at Hawassa University, Ethiopia and Soil and Water Engineering and Management (BSc) at Haramaya University, Ethiopia. His thesis work for his Master’s degree in Soil Science focused on the soil acidity problem prevailing across Ethiopia, specifically in the South West Region. Accordingly, he has assessed the effects of different rates of lime addition on improving the properties of an acidic soil in the region. Moreover, his dissertation for his second Master’s degree analysed the Water-Energy-Food nexus in the Upper Nile Basin at national scales.

Adane Buni-LandPKS Country Coordination Officer for Ethiopia
Adane Buni – LandPKS Country Coordination Officer for Ethiopia

Adane has approximately nine years of work experience at various organizations in different parts of Ethiopia. He has lectured in the departments of small scale irrigation and rural water supply at Hawassa Polytechnic College for five years. Most of his trainees used to be extension and development workers from Ministries of Agriculture and Water. He was also an Associate Researcher at Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research. He was overseeing a research project on the Management of Vertisols, a soil type covering large parts of agricultural lands in Ethiopia known for its inherent water-logging problem limiting its productivity. His specific responsibilities as a researcher were initiating research proposals, analysing field research data and demonstration of research findings to the farmers.

Adane is enthusiastic about the use of tools that assist decision making in natural resource management. He also strongly believes in the importance of digitizing environmental data and making an easy access of information to stakeholders in order to achieve the transformation of Ethiopian Agriculture. That was why he decided to join the LandPKS team and make his own contribution.

Introducing Elifadhili Daniel: LandPKS Country Coordination Officer for Tanzania

Elifadhili Daniel is our LandPKS Country Coordination Officer for Tanzania.  He is a crop scientist, with a Master of Science Degree in Crop Science from Wageningen University and Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Sokoine University of Agriculture. Daniel has more than 10 years’ experience working with farmers as an agricultural extensionist, three of which he worked as a researcher for AfricaRice where he was involved in developing cost effective, culturally and socially acceptable parasitic weed control strategies for resource-poor rice farmers in Tanzania. He has interacted and established a network with various agricultural stakeholders including input suppliers, researchers, Agricultural training institutes, local NGOs and District Agricultural Offices in Tanzania. His LandPKS work in Tanzania involves, among many things, training farmers, extension, development and researchers on the use of the LandPKS mobile app, identifying and communicating improvements to the LandPKS development team and developing additional training and outreach materials in Swahili.

Due to shortage of extension officers in many villages of Tanzania and high costs for conducting laboratory soil testing, Daniel is motivated ensure LandPKS is rolled out and used as a decision tool for soil management by multiple stakeholders and users.

Elifadhili Daniel_edit
Elifadhili Daniel – LandPKS Country Coordination Officer for Tanzania

LandPKS Capacity Building in Kisarawe District, Tanzania

Photo 1: Soil samples collected and ready for hand texturing guided by the LandPKS app.

The LandPKS team spent three days last week in Kisarawe District, Tanzania training and testing the new Land Capability Classification (LCC) function of the LandPKS app.  The LCC classifies the land into eight classes (from prime agricultural land to land that would be better used for livestock, wildlife conservation, or forestry) based on the potential productivity of the land.  The class is determined by slope, soil texture, and seven different soil limitations such as soil depth, permeability, flooding, etc.  We were joined in Kisarawe District by staff from Tanzania’s National Land Use Planning Commission (NLUPC) as well as Kisarawe District staff including land use planners, agricultural officers, and livestock specialists.

Photo 2: Dr. Charles Mkalawa with the NLUPC leading the LandPKS training with the village government and local farmers.

We spent three days in the Kisarawe District, which is a rural area just outside of Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania.  The first day everyone visited the nearby village of Mtamba and the LandPKS team trained the national and district level staff, alongside local village government officials and farmers, on how to use the LCC function within the LandPKS app.  We also discussed how the LCC can be integrated into land use planning in order to better match the land use with the land capability.  The second day, we visited the villages of Masanganya and Marumbo in Kisarawe District.  Dr. Charles Mkalawa from the NLUPC conducted the trainings with the village governments and farmers the second day.  The third and last day, we visited Mhaga, and the staff from the NLUPC and Kisarawe District conducted the entire training!  It was excellent to see how quickly the staff understood the LCC function and the LandPKS app, and were able to train others within three short days.  These staff are now well trained to help others learn how to use the LandPKS app for biophysical characterization of the land for land use planning.  All of us at the LandPKS team were very impressed and by the NLUPC and Kisarawe District staff are looking forward to future collaborations and implementation of the LandPKS app for land use planning efforts in Tanzania and beyond.

Video Caption: Staff from the Kisarawe District leading the LandPKS training.


The LandPKS app is free to download for both Android and iOS.  Learn more about the LandPKS app on the website.  Training resources, including guides and online trainings, are also available on the website. The LandPKS app was developed by the LandPKS Team for the Land-Potential Knowledge System (LandPKs) with support from USAID and USDA-ARS.   Please contact us at with any questions, comments, or feedback.

Photo 3: The LandPKS Team, NLUPC Staff, and Kisarawe District Staff as the sun was setting on our third day in Kisarawe.

User-Centered Design: Bi-Annual User Feedback Survey

The LandPKS team is committed to user-centered app design, and a major part of this includes soliciting feedback from our users in order to help improve the LandPKS app in order to meet their needs. The LandPKS team conducts a bi-annual online user survey to gain feedback about various components of the app. We conducted our lastest bi-annual survey last month and want to say thank you to all our users who contributed their thoughts and ideas!

Fig 1 with title

Results in Figure 1 show that many of our users are long time users of LandPKS and have been using the app for more than 2 years, while others are new to LandPKS.  We also asked our users which LandPKS modules they use most in their work (Figure 2).  Importantly, most of our users are utilizing both the LandCover and LandInfo modules in order to characterize the soil and monitor vegetation.  Additionally, a handful of users indicated they had collected data on more than 300 sites using LandPKS!

Fig 2 with title

We also asked users a variety of questions about the new LandPKS App Version 3.0 as well as their thoughts on modules we are currently designing and programming.  Users reported that they are very likely to use the upcoming SoilColor and Land Capability Classification Modules which will be released in the next few months.  Further, many users stated that they would like to be able to download PDF reports and shape files of their data from the LandPKS Data Portal (  As a result of this feedback we plan to integrate these functions into the Data Portal in the near future.  Our users have also found the newly available results in the LandPKS App Version 3.0 helpful to their work.  Particularly, users find the bar chart data summaries in LandCover helpful as well as the visual summaries of soil texture and rock fragment volume by depth.

The LandPKS app ( helps users make more sustainable land management decisions by assisting users to collect geo-located data about their soils, vegetation, and site characteristics; and returning back to users results and information about their site. The LandPKS app Version 3.0 is free and available now on the Google Play Store and iTunes Store. The LandPKS app was developed by the LandPKS Team for the Land-Potential Knowledge System (LandPKs) with support from USAID and USDA-ARS. Please contact us at with any questions, comments, or feedback.


By Amy Quandt, LandPKS Global Coordinator


Designing the LandPKS App: Guidelines for Developing a Global App

The LandPKS app ( helps users make more sustainable land management decisions by assisting users to collect geo-located data about their soils, vegetation, and site characteristics; and returning back to users useful results and information about their site. The LandPKS app is a global app that can be used in any location around the world. As visible on the LandPKS Data Portal (, there have been LandPKS sites completed on 6 continents!

While being a global app has major advantages, it also comes with design challenges in order to assist our global users. In order to address this, we have developed three major design guidelines:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Usability
  3. Usefulness

In order to maximize simplicity, the LandPKS team aims to minimize the number of components and screens. We aim to break tasks into manageable chunks so that users are not overwhelmed.  Additionally, we strive to have the LandPKS app be as visual as possible by using simple graphics and charts. For example, in the vegetation monitoring module, LandCover, users select vegetation types based on simple images.


Figure 1: Selection of vegetation and cover types in the LandCover module of the LandPKS app. Users choose from these simple images to determine what types of vegetation are present at their site.

In order to maximize usability of the LandPKS app we aim to design the navigation of the app to be intuitive and seamless. Most importantly, the LandPKS app is designed and built to be useable by non-technical experts. Therefore, we aim to use minimal technical language, include question marks with brief text and/or graphical explanations, and include explanatory videos when needed.  For example, in the LandInfo module, we include videos that help explain how to hand-texture the soil for a user who is not a soil scientist and may be unfamiliar with how to hand-texture the soil.

Figure 2: Screenshots of videos that help walk a user through how to hand texture the soil in the SoilInfo Module of the LandPKS app.

Lastly, we focus on the usefulness of the LandPKS app globally. This includes soliciting feedback from our users in order to help mold the LandPKS app to meet their needs. The LandPKS team conducts a bi-annual online user survey to gain feedback about various components of the app. We also spent a month in Tanzania last year testing the app with smallholder farmers and agricultural extension agents, making sure they found the app useful and were able to understand the outputs.


While the effort to create a global app is guided by the three steps outlined here, it is still very much a work in progress. The LandPKS app Version 3.0 is free and available now on the Google Play Store and iTunes Store. Learn more about the LandPKS app on the website. The LandPKS app was developed by the LandPKS Team for the Land-Potential Knowledge System (LandPKs) with support from USAID and USDA-ARS. Please contact us at with any questions, comments, or feedback.

By Amy Quandt, LandPKS Global Coordinator

Announcing the Release of LandPKS 3.0

The LandPKS team is happy to announce that we have released a new and improved version of the LandPKS app.  This new version is a result of months of hard work for everyone on our team, as well as helpful feedback from our users around the world.  The LandPKS app helps users make more sustainable land management decisions by assisting users to collect geo-located data about their soils, vegetation, and site characteristics; and returning back to users useful results and information about their site.  It also provides free cloud storage and sharing, which means that you and others can access your data from any computer from our Data Portal at  The LandPKS app does not require a data connection to be used, and users can upload their data when they next have connectivity.  LandPKS app includes two modules: LandInfo and LandCover.  The LandInfo module walks a user through how to determine the texture of their soil, which is critical information for smallholder farmers and can help them plant crops suitable to their soil type.  The LandCover module walks a user through how to collect vegetation cover data, important for vegetation monitoring and ecosystem restoration. The LandPKS app Version 3.0 is free and available now on the Google Play Store and iTunes Store.

What’s New?

  • Updated and improved user interface
  • Easy navigation between data input and report (results) screens
  • Graphical LandCover results including cover trends over time
  • Graphical LandInfo results with a table of texture and rock fragment volume by depth
  • Available Water Holding Capacity and Infiltration calculations for your soil
  • Upload data to the Data Portal at any time by hitting the “Synchronize Now ?” button


Other Improved Features Include:

  • A simple, primarily graphics-based interface that minimizes language and literacy requirements.
  • Embedded tutorials and explanations to guide the user through the app.
  • Offline data collection
  • Unlimited access to stored data via our Data Portal at


Learn more about the LandPKS app on the website.  Training resources, including guides and online trainings, are also available on the website. The LandPKS app was developed by the LandPKS Team for the Land-Potential Knowledge System (LandPKs) with support from USAID and USDA-ARS.   Please contact us at with any questions, comments, or feedback.

LandPKS Tools: Overview Presentation at the Jornada Experimental Range

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The Land-Potential Knowledge System project (LandPKS) is based out of the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range ( The Jornada focuses on the management of land resources in the southwestern US, as well as globally. The Jornada programs are comprised of long-term scientific investigations, experiments that contribute to national research objectives, development of technologies applicable to land management, and synthesis of information for public use. The Jornada works to find solutions to real problems.

A few weeks ago, the LandPKS team presented an overview of the new LandPKS App (Version 3.0) at the Jornada. Caitlin Holmes (LandPKS Program Coordinator) introduced the LandPKS team and discussed the new LandPKS website ( Amy Quandt (LandPKS Global Coordinator) presented an overview of the LandPKS app and how it is being used in Tanzania and Kenya to help land managers make more sustainable land management decisions. Jeff Herrick (LandPKS Project Lead) then provided an in-depth live demo of the app and walked the audience through how to use both the LandInfo and LandCover Modules. Shawn Salley (LandPKS Soil Scientist and Head of Research) presented the various research projects that the LandPKS team are working on. Lastly, Brandon Bestelmeyer (Researcher Leader at the Jornada) and Jeff Herrick discussed future linkages between LandPKS and EDIT (Ecosystems Dynamics Interpretive Tool) to support ecological site-based management decisions. The LandPKS team hopes that this video presentation is helpful to organizations and individuals interested in using new, innovative technologies for more sustainable land management. The LandPKS app is available for free on both the Google Play and iTunes Stores. Please contact us at with any questions or inquiries.

Linking Land Potential to Ecosystem Response

As part of a growing community of LandPKS users, we are highlighting use cases around the world. Below is one of the use cases from the United States.

At New Mexico State University, student researchers are using the LandInfo module of the LandPKS mobile application to augment a more detailed vegetation monitoring program designed to investigate the ecological impacts of brush control on big sagebrush communities in northern New Mexico. On research sites, the assessment of land potential based on soil properties is providing useful insight into ecosystem response to herbicide applications designed to achieve management objectives linked to livestock production and other ecosystem services. By linking LandPKS evaluations to plant and soil biological community response, researchers hope to develop best management practices for future brush control treatments to produce the desired results while also minimizing degradation risk.

Jeremy Schallner and Amy Ganguli (Graduate Student and Associate Professor of Range Science) Department of Animal and Range Sciences, New Mexico State University

LandCover: A Mobile Tool for Vegetation Monitoring

LandCover: A Mobile Tool for Vegetation Monitoring

By Amy Quandt

The Land Potential-Knowledge System (LandPKS; is creating mobile applications that help land managers collect, store, and analyze data in order to inform decision making, agricultural production, and vegetation monitoring and restoration.  It does this through the use of the LandPKS Mobile app, which is free to download and use for both Android and iPhone.  The LandPKS app currently has two modules: LandInfo and LandCover.

The major goal of the LandCover module is to assist users with collecting vegetation cover data using a point-intercept method.  LandCover is designed to be a simple, user-friendly substitute for traditional paper monitoring sheets for vegetation cover.  The only equipment needed is a meter/yard stick and the LandPKS app installed on a smartphone.  First, the user designates a center point of the plot.  Next, the user walks 5 meters/yards in one direction from the center, drops the stick, and enters which vegetation types directly touch the stick at 5 points along the stick, measures plant height, and establishes if there are canopy or basal gaps.  This is then repeated at 10, 15, 20, and 25 meters/yards along that given transect.  Lastly, this process is repeated in the 3 remaining transect.  Overall, this method yields 100 points of vegetation cover data per plot in about 20 minutes.

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Importantly, results are calculated immediately on the phone about cover type, plant cover, canopy height, and gaps.  In addition to receiving results on the phone, users can also access their data on our open-source data portal at  Further, a user can enter vegetation cover data for the same plot at various intervals and immediately get results about trends in vegetation cover.  LandCover can be used globally, and the module is currently being used extensively in the rangelands of Namibia and Kenya.

There are several important advantages of using the LandCover module for measuring vegetation cover.  First, it gets rid of paper forms that can be lost or damaged. Second, results are delivered immediately to a user without the need for extensive data analysis.  This benefit was mentioned by rangeland managers in Samburu County, Kenya, who told the LandPKS team that now they can see results directly on the phone themselves, instead of waiting months to maybe get results back from their headquarter offices.  This makes it easier and more efficient for real-time vegetation monitoring and decision making. Third, the LandCover module makes vegetation restoration efforts easy to monitor.  This has important implications for both maintaining wildlife habitat and encouraging the growth of fodder species for livestock.  Lastly, the LandCover results help natural resource managers make more sustainable decisions about their land, which can lead to greater productivity and less environmental degradation.  Download the LandPKS app to try out the LandCover module today!  For more information about LandPKS please visit our website at or e-mail us at